Clinical Practice

Think carrots not sticks: Well-Hearing is Well-Being™

Linking well-hearing to well-being has the goal of changing the way we talk about hearing healthcare in the clinic.

I would be willing to wager that each and every one of us has been in that coveted new patient appointment where you feel like you are with the quintessential “one.” You know what I am talking about…

Everything is going well. The case history and needs assessment have all the familiar signs of a motivated patient. You perform a comprehensive evaluation. Through the partnership with your front office staff, you purposefully involve a companion. There is no question that the patient in front of you could benefit so much from hearing healthcare solutions. As the results discussion approaches, you waltz into the room armed with the story … Wait for it “You need hearing aids because you do not hear well.”

Yes, it is a true story, and you have all the parts. Plus, you tell the story so well. Inevitably there will come talk of thresholds, decibels and maybe even degree of SNR loss. Motivating enough? Maybe. Will the patient act right away and begin a hearing health journey? Possibly. Could we be a little more enlightened to inspire action? Most definitely, but…

Could it be that people wait to do something about their hearing loss because we seldom actually address how this impacts other areas of life? Utilizing Well-Hearing is Well-Being, you can introduce patients to a broader scope of health outside of what we have traditionally thought around hearing healthcare needs.

Begin a new conversation

Let’s think a bit about changing the conversation. What if instead of thresholds and decibels, we led with talking about how taking steps towards hearing well is linked to noticeable improvements in physical, cognitive and social-emotional well-being.

Undoubtedly, you will encounter patients in your practice who will value various dimensions of well-being differently. That is the beauty of individualized care. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we can offer holistic hearing solutions that target various aspects of well-being.

Listen for trigger words

It starts with listening to your patients. They will tell you. Throughout your needs assessment, there will be trigger words that let you know where they struggle. We are all quite accustomed to listening for which environments or situations are problematic for our patients. We, together with our patients, decide technology level recommendations and solutions based on lifestyle and communication needs, but are we really tuned in to his/her well-being? What do you think when you hear a patient say they are exhausted? Lonely? Nervous?

“Exhausted” could have nothing to do with physical stamina and actually translate to how much listening effort is required to follow everyday conversations. “Lonely” may not be a reflection on the physical distance between family members or friends, but social isolation as a result of untreated hearing loss. And, “nervous” is often a feeling expressed by those with hearing loss who feel unsteady in his/her environment.

Identifying trigger words will help guide your conversation as you set goals with your patients. Setting goals is one of the most important pieces of your consultation. So much discovery can come during the goal setting session. Patients may give you deeper insights into motivations and actually spell out for you which aspects of his/her well-being are being taxed by hearing loss.

Features, benefits and well-being

If we are truly focused on well-being, we can expand our treatment rationale to include feature/benefit combinations that are much broader and may appeal to the patient on a much deeper level. For a patient whose goals focus around cognitive well-being, it will be imperative that you focus on features, such as Adaptive Phonak Digital 2.0, Speech Enhancer and AutoSense OS™ 4.0, which will adapt to suit the needs of dynamic environments and make listening much less difficult1 — free up some of the cognitive space for other tasks.

Try to pull in Dynamic Noise Cancellation, Binaural VoiceStream Technology and Roger™ technology for those focusing on social-emotional well-being. Features like these allow patients to more readily engage in challenging social situations, like restaurants, large group conversations or even small group gatherings.

And for those patients feeling unsteady and struggling with physical well-being, Motion Sensor Hearing and Tap Control are two unique features to leverage for your patients. These will allow them to connect on-the-go and maintain awareness in noisy, challenging and reverberant listening environments. Hearing well in these situations can foster feelings of security, stability, and confidence.

Healthy aging motivation

There is no question healthy hearing is tied to healthy aging. Granted, “healthy aging” looks differently to all of us, for sure. Maybe to you, healthy aging looks like running a marathon at the age of 101, like the famed “Turbaned Tornado,” or it’s being a mental gymnast and being able to hang with chess masters later in life.

How about making certain you are still the life of the party and the last man standing?! Whatever your motivation may be, we must seek to find our patients’ motivation. Hearing well will foster easier engagement, stronger connections and a more positive outlook on life for all us.

Personally, I have never been a fan of clinical scare tactics. I prefer carrots to sticks. Reward over penalty … always.

Let’s be active listeners as we work to allow our patients to hear better. Let’s engage with our patients on a positive level and show them what they stand to gain from healthy hearing, because after all … Well-hearing is Well-being!

 

To learn more about Well-Hearing is Well-Being, we invite you to read a previous blog article highlighting last year’s international conference that focused on the scientific connection between hearing well and being well. It includes links to videos and presentations from researchers and experts in all areas of well-being.

 

Reference

  1. Woodward, J., Jansen, S., & Kühnel, V. (2020) Hearing inspired by nature: the new APD 2.0 fitting formula with adaptive compression. Phonak. Insight. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence. Accessed October 13, 2020.

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